MK Dons: History, Stats and Peppa Pig

I made three observations around Friday’s match in Kingston. A huge reduction in the amount of media coverage, a loss of patience by the football community with AFC and an unusual intervention by the EFL following the child like antics of AFC.

It also became apparent that there is an ignorance about the background to the move, with some choosing to accept at face value the self serving doctrine spun by AFC Kingston.

The story started as far back as 1980 when Wimbledon encountered issues with Merton Council. Chairman Ron Noades claimed that the Borough did not want the club and that he was involved in talks to take Wimbledon to Milton Keynes.

MK City Football Club (formerly Bletchley Town) was the first representative club to play using the name Milton Keynes. In 1980 they won the final of the Berks and Bucks Senior Cup in front of a crowd of over 2,000.

At the time that Noades was engaged in talks concerning a move to Milton Keynes, he was voted onto the board of MK City FC together with fellow Wimbledon directors Bernie Coleman, Jimmy Rose and… Sam Hammam.

Noades said at the time; “Unless the pre-emption is sorted out there is no future for us at Plough Lane. Milton Keynes has long term potential. It can support a multi-purpose stadium, the potential is there”

These facts are covered in a book called The Dons in the League 1977-1982 – Author: Stephen Crabtree in April 1996. Published by Buckingham Sporting and Leisure Press. ISBN 0860235580.

Noades subsequently abandoned plans for the move and MK City FC sadly folded a few years later. The irony of this will not be lost on Dons fans…

Meanwhile, all was not well at Plough Lane.

At the end of the 1990-91 season and in the context of the Taylor Report, then Chairman Sam Hammam decided that Plough Lane was no longer fit for purpose and agreed a ground-share some 7 miles across South London at Crystal Palace. A temporary move that lasted over 10 years.

Alarm bells started to sound during a meeting of the board on the 11th October 1993, when Sam Hammam announced to those present that the club was £1.5million in the red and leaking money faster than a corrupt banker at Lehmans during black Monday.

Fast forward to 22nd February 1996 and a crisis meeting in the board room. The situation was now critical and Hammam had failed to secure the support of Merton Council or address the financial situation. He announced that he was in talks about a move to Wales or Ireland.

On 14th January 2000, Hammam wrote a letter to the new Norwegian owners of Wimbledon FC entitled “The Wimbledon we Have”. He specifically pointed to the lack of support from fans and the lack of a stadium. He stated that Wimbledon FC had been invited for discussions about a move by Luton, Watford, Birmingham, West Bromwich Albion, Portsmouth, Brighton and Hull (as well as Milton Keynes).

On 14th May 2000, the worst fears of Sam Hammam were realised and the Wombles were relegated from the Premier League. Average gates dropped to 7,800 in the Championship and crisis turned into terminal decline.

Milton Keynes was back on the agenda.

On 19th January 2001 Peter Winkelman wrote to MK Council and declared that he stood ready to provide a home for crisis hit Wimbledon. He told them that his role was to provide a stadium should the board of Wimbledon decide to move to Milton Keynes.

On 2nd August 2001, Wimbledon FC announced their intention to move to Milton Keynes.

On 16th August 2001 the Football League denied permission for the move and 2 weeks later referred the case for arbitration. The judicially appointed arbitration panel found that the EFL decision was legally flawed and their processes unfair.

As a result of this the EFL referred the matter to an independent FA Commission who decided to grant approval for the move on 28th May 2002.

The FA Commission did not order the move – it simply “sanctioned” the move. Pete Winkelman was not in control of Wimbledon FC.

Despite this, less than 24 hours after the FA Commission decision, WISA (Wimbledon Independent Supporters Association) registered the domain name afcwimbledon.com. A further 24 hours later, the domain name afcwimbledon.co.uk was registered.

On the same day WISA held a meeting during which members expressed concerns that the creation of a new club was defeatist and premature. But despite this, WISA voted to establish a new club and also voted not to attend any more games of Wimbledon FC.

This vote was carried onto the terraces. Attendances plummeted adding to an already dire predicament and in June 2003 the club entered administration with debts of over £35 million.

The club came within 3 weeks of going out of business.

There was only one rescue bid and it came from a consortium headed by Pete Winkelman. And the rest as they say is history.

So in summary…

The move to Milton Keynes was initially considered by Wimbledon FC in 1980

Four directors of Wimbledon FC were voted onto the board of MK City which subsequently folded

The decision to uproot Wimbledon FC from Merton was taken by Sam Hammam

Wimbledon FC had left Merton over 10 years prior to the move to MK

The first proposal to move out of London was made by Sam Hammam – to Ireland

The decision to move to Milton Keynes was made by the board of Wimbledon FC

The decision of the FA Commission was not binding

Despite this WISA turned its back on Wimbledon FC and voted to form a new club

When Wimbledon FC went into administration with debts of £35 million, no fan group or body associated to Wimbledon FC made a rescue bid

Next time a football fan tries to re-write history, gently point out the Facts of the Move. Wimbledon was the sole creator of its own destiny.  The fans turned their backs on a debt ridden, homeless club in favour of a shiny new model which they would have total control of. In doing so, they signed the death warrant of Wimbledon FC. Without the intervention of Peter Winkelman the club would have died.

But moving on….

Slowly but surely Robbie Neilson is getting his message across. Fans are starting to understand that his style of play is more complex than that championed by his predecessor and the players are becoming enthused and are improving as a team. Three wins in four matches bears testament to that.

But what is making the difference?

I notice two stats from the early matches this season. The Dons had decent amounts of possession during matches, but the shots on target ratio was extremely poor. By way of example…

MK Dons v Wigan – Dons had  1 shot on target from 6 attempts (16%)

Blackpool v MK Dons – Dons had 2 shots on target from 13 attempts (15%)

MK Dons v Gillingham – Dons had 5 shots on target from 15 attempts (33%)

Contrast that with the stats from the last 3 matches:

Peterborough v MK Dons – Dons again had 7 shots on target from 12 attempts (58%)

MK Dons v Rochdale – Dons with 7 shots on target from 12 attempts (58%)

AFC v MK Dons – Dons had 5 shots on target from 6 attempts (83%)

Personally I believe that Osman Sow has been extremely influential in this change. His movement off the ball, strength on the ball, physical presence and accurate passing has created space for others like Ariyibi and Seager to exploit.

Another stat worthy of mention is the timing of the first goal conceded by the Dons. Either early in matches or either side of half time. Again some examples for you…

Wigan (7 minutes prior to half time)

Blackpool (6 minutes into the match)

Blackburn (2 minutes into the match)

Oxford (8 minutes into the match)

Peterborough (2 minutes into the 2nd half)

Rochdale (8 minutes into the match)

Having watched the majority of the matches and now identified these stats, my assessment is that the Dons have lacked concentration at the start of matches and either side of half time. There was a distinct change at Wimbledon where they came out hard and fast, putting them on the front foot for a change.

Two fairly simple stats, but valid nevertheless. It doesn’t need a sports analyst to work out that the more shots on target you have the more likely to score. And if you concede a goal in the first 10 minutes of a match, you’ve just made your life a lot harder. The fans go quiet, heads go down and the opposition start with confidence.

But these stats are improving… in line with our results.

Callum Brittain has been a revelation so far this season. Born in Milton Keynes on 12th March 1998 he is another product of the Dons academy. On 2nd May 2016 he joined an Icelandic side where he made 8 appearances, impressing them with his ability.

The youngster made the breakthrough into the senior side following the arrival of Robbie Neilson and featured in 7 matches at the end of last season. During those appearances the Dons only lost 1 league match and conceded just 4 goals.

With the surprise departures of Ben Tilney and George Baldock, Callum saw his position in the squad change and once again he’s been a regular this season. So far he has played in 7 matches this season, and during that time the Dons have again only lost 1 league match.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that these academy products have a human side and are just local lads taking advantage of the Dons to break into professional football.

One fan, who grew up in the same area as Callum reflects how he used to go round to his house before school in the morning and watch Peppa Pig at 8am on Channel 5. As most lads do, they used to play football in the street and Callum was usually put in goal with the other lads pretending to be Dons players.

I’m sure Brittain won’t thank me for mentioning him in the same breath as Peppa Pig, but it’s perhaps a reminder to us not to take these lads for granted and to remember that they’re from our town and have real life stories to tell. He really is another who is “one of our own”.

Anyway, back to Stadium MK tonight and a match against The Cobblers. Here’s hoping for another win. See you there! COYD

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MK Dons: AFC Kingston 0-2 Milton Keynes Dons

On September 15th I wrote in my blog;

Having brought in a new manager, it will take time to develop a team who will get used to the new system. Equally it will take time for the manager to work out his best side, once the handicap of injuries is removed.

So tomorrow afternoon I’ll be cheering the lads on… having the occasional moan to my pals who put up with me at matches… and looking for more signs that we can become a real threat in this division.

It really is far too early to give up on Robbie and his new recruits. I’m really hoping for and expecting an improved performance and a win tomorrow.

MK Dons 3-2 Rochdale

AFC 0-2 MK Dons

Back to back wins, Dons up to 9th and everything looking far more rosy.

Hands up everyone who feels really exhilarated this morning. Having seen our club travel away to “The Hypocrites” and come away with a 2-0 win. We could get promoted to the Premier League and I’d honestly struggle to feel as happy as I do right now (though I’d be pretty happy with promotion as well).

I was taken aback to read a tweet from an AFC fan who said; “Genuinely baffled how MK fans refer to us as scum. They have literally no reason to hate us”.

He seemed quite a genuine guy in fairness, but clearly clueless about the crap that Dons fans have had to endure thanks to the AFC lies, spin and deceit over the years. Pete Winkelman will be the first to throw his hands up and accept he made mistakes, and as fans we all recognise the issues.

But the shame of the situation is that AFC fans consistently fail to accept their share of the blame. Not the new fans at AFC, but those who watched Wimbledon and allowed Sam Hammam to asset strip their club, allowed the move away from Wimbledon to Palace and then turned their backs on the club and its debt before it had even moved to MK.

Just ask yourself why those who set up AFC didn’t make one bid to buy Wimbledon out of administration – debt, debt, debt. They wanted to walk away, start a new debt free club and in Pete and MK they had the perfect chance to blame everyone else for their own mess.

Ask yourself who funds the pensions of former staff at Wimbledon FC. A little clue – its not AFC Kingston! Always the victims and never to blame.

And so this morning I glory in another majestic page of history written in favour of the mighty Milton Keynes Dons over the scum.

Readers know I like to throw in the odd quote, so here goes;

Positive criticism is a good friend

Insincere flattery is a fake friend

Robbie Neilson was very direct with his criticism of the defence at Peterborough. Toby Lock over at The Citizen chose to take issue with the midfield, and I was critical of the loan signings Ariyibi and Tshibola as well as the likeable Cisse.

In my mind, the mark of a quality person is the way that they respond to criticism. Things needed to be said and performances across the park warranted the level of intervention that took place from the management, press and social media. But the response from the players over the last week has been outstanding.

It’s easy for us to forget what a young squad Neilson has put together. It’s equally easy to miss the bigger picture and get a feel for what the Scotsman and his team are trying to implement.

How many times did we bang our heads against the stadium walls and beg for a plan B, let alone C and D. How many times did we hold our heads in hands and bemoan the absence of a tall, physical centre forward. Lack of pace… team of clones… one dimensional football… lack of strength in depth…

Robbie is clearly trying to address all those areas.

A special mention for Gboly Ariyibi.

The Forest loanee has been sensational during the last couple of games. Not just three special goals, but his attitude and improvement in play has been excellent. As he himself identifies, he needs to track back and do more defensively, but he’s far more of a team player now and all the better for it.

But equally, there has been a terrific response from the defence and others named in recent weeks.

Nicholls is an outstanding keeper and a real hero now amongst Dons fans. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so happy with the man between the sticks. That penalty save is really one to savour.

I’m also loving the look of our very own SAS – SOW and SEAGER. These two look really exciting when they play together. And as their fitness and understand grows I can see good things ahead.

Gilbey is another who’s fitted right in at the club. It’s only a matter of time before he’ll start banging them in me thinks.

And then we come to young Brittain. I was at AFC last season when Ben Tilney was taken apart in that fateful night in South London. Who would have thought that he would be replaced by another young Dons defender who would do even better.

I can see lots of good things in the months ahead!

As mentioned last time, I’ve asked some Dons fans on Twitter to contribute a little about themselves and how they came to follow the Dons. Today’s comments come from @Nw1967;

I moved to MK from Northampton 25 years ago. As a schoolboy I went to the County Ground for a few seasons to watch the Cobblers.

Then in my later teenage years I discovered alcohol and nightclubs, so football faded somewhat.  With hindsight I never really connected with the club. If I had I suppose I would have continued to go.

In the early 90’s I met my wife and we moved to MK. It didn’t take many years for us to love it here.

We started going to watch the Dons in 2007, became Season Ticket holders the following season and have made some real friends since.

The club is at the heart of our community and maybe that is why we feel a real connection with the Dons and MK. It’s a unique place with an even more unique football club.

This is our home and the Dons are our football club

COYD

Thanks for the contribution @Nw1967. I think a lot of fans can relate to your comments. Having moved to MK myself in 2003, I made most of my local friends through supporting the football club. What’s more important than how the club started is what it’s become. And in my opinion it’s become more integral to the community than most so called “fan owned clubs”.

I’m not someone who uses the fans forums but nevertheless I was sad to read that the TCR has closed its doors for the final time.

Any football club needs active fans who are prepared to contribute beyond simply supporting the club at matches. Supporters Associations, fans forums, practical help and even blogs are all part of the fabric of a club’s infrastructure. But from personal experience I can tell you that it’s hard work.

You often find yourself in the firing line of the frustrations of others. Sometimes your motives and integrity are called into question and at other times you feel you can’t do anything right.

I want to take a moment to pay tribute to all those who go above and beyond, giving up time, money and energy to provide a better environment for other fans. And in particular to those who’ve run the TCR for several years now. Well done and take a well deserved break.

That’s all from me for this week. A fabulous, massive win for the Dons and a feel-good weekend follows. See you all on Tuesday against the Cobblers. Enjoy your weekend..

AFC Scum Hypocrites Not in Wimbledon 0-2 Might Milton Keynes

Hot of the press, it would now appear that Kingston are in hot water with the EFL:

https://www.efl.com/news/2017/september/efl-statement-afc-wimbledon/

Prior to Friday evening’s Sky Bet League One fixture between AFC Wimbledon and Milton Keynes Dons, the EFL sought assurances from the home club that the game would be treated in a consistent and appropriate manner to any other taking place at the Cherry Red Records Stadium.

Any deviation from this needed to be with the agreement or understanding of Milton Keynes Dons.

This approach was taken following the actions of AFC Wimbledon at the corresponding fixture last season when the visiting club was not referred to by its full name of Milton Keynes Dons in a number of circumstances.

The EFL is more than aware of the issues around the creation of Milton Keynes Dons and the upset this caused for the then, Wimbledon FC.

The failure to recognise Milton Keynes Dons in the correct manner causes reputational issues for the EFL as well as creating the potential for unrest amongst MK Dons supporters and, as such, is of concern for the EFL.

Under new EFL regulations 3.4 and 3.5 all clubs are required to behave towards one another with the ‘utmost good faith’ and not to ‘unfairly criticise, disparage, belittle or discredit’ any other club.

Following reports regarding last night’s fixture, it would appear that a similar situation has transpired and, as a result, the EFL Board will request the observations of AFC Wimbledon at the earliest possible opportunity.

If the club is charged with a breach of EFL regulations then the matter would be referred to a Disciplinary Commission.

Regulations 3.4 and 3.5 state:

3.4: in all matters and transactions relating to the league, each Club shall behave towards each other and the League with the utmost good faith.

3.5: no Club, either by itself, its servants or agents, shall by any means whatsoever unfairly criticise, disparage, belittle or discredit any other Club or the League or in either case any of its directors, officers, employees or agents.

MK Dons: Less Doom and more Boom

From personal experience this week I can say that life is never predictable and quite often throws unexpected curve-balls. There’s nothing like a loved-one being taken from you to look at life in a different light. By the way, thank you for all the kind messages of sympathy on Twitter. There really are some diamond fans out there.

But to apply personal experience to the Dons, summer pre-conceptions are being smashed into smithereens. Our right back was going to be George Baldock right? Bye bye Baldock and welcome Willo. Dean Lewie was going to make way for Ben Tilney right? Bye bye Ben and bring on Brittain.

One of the most extraordinary examples for me is the impact of new arrival Aidan Nesbitt. I think it would be fair to say that Dons Twitter reacted badly to his signing. Even Robbie Neilson played down expectations by saying that he was one for the future.

This has been a massively difficult start to the season, but in Nesbitt I see something hugely positive. We should have had higher expectations but the fact is we didn’t. A football education courtesy of Celtic, 11 goals in 23 appearances for the Scotland unders and a season in the Scottish Championship… and all of this by the tender age of 20.

This lad needs to be the first name on the team sheet in my opinion. He’s a live-wire who plays with passion and has the ability to become a Dons legend. I really do rate him that highly. But come on Robbie… start him and let him play.

The big frustration at the moment is that I can honestly see class players across our squad who if fit and playing together (as a team) could form a wonderful side.

Nicholls has impressed everyone and is generally considered to be an improvement on Dave Martin (respected stalwart that he was to the Dons).

Williams, Ebanks-Landell,  Wootton, Walsh, Golbourne and Brittain should provide a strong defensive unit… but two are currently injured and unavailable

Upson, Tsibola, Gilbey, Nesbitt, Aneke, Ariyibi and Pawlett should excite across the centre of the park, but three are currently crocked and others are simply not performing.

And Osman Sow is a class front man who again is returning from injury supported by Muirhead and Seagers.

My first choice side based on everything I’ve seen this season would be…

 

Nicholls

Williams, Ebanks-Landell, Walsh and Golbourne

Nesbitt, Upson, Gilbey and Pawlett

Aneke

Sow

 

Of course many will disagree with me, but in my mind these are our best 11 players, and 6 are either injured or returning from injury and lacking match fitness.

Lets be completely honest with ourselves.

Sow is a huge talent who when fit and settled will be one of the most exciting strikers in League One and a totally fit Chuks Aneke is a top end Championship standard player. Get these two fit and in form and we have one of the most dynamic pairings in League One.

IF…

But let’s continue to be completely honest.

It’s becoming blatantly obvious that there are players who are nowhere near the standard needed. Lewie is a legend and must always be revered and looked after by the club, but he IS past his best God bless him.

Tshibola and Ariyibi are annoying the hell out of me. Both are clearly blessed with natural talent but I get the distinct feeling that neither are giving 150% for the cause. They seem on a mission to show how good THEY are rather than playing for the “team”.

Ousse Cisse has massively disappointed me in recent matches. He looked awesome against Leicester and did well at the start of the season but has become a liability. Keiran Agard looks like he doesn’t want to be here. I’ve seen nothing of the top scoring talent of last season.

But I refuse to be drawn to the level of (the understandable) negativity shown by some.

Over the summer there has been a complete re-structuring of the club. The introduction of an under 23 side has been a giant step forward and is providing a lot of interest among fans. A new style of play is slowly being integrated into the club with new players finding their feet and learning the way forward.

Recently I contacted several MK Dons fans who post regularly on Twitter and invited them to make some comments on why they follow the Dons. Over the next few blogs I’ll be adding their comments because this blog is not just about me but about the fans and the club. If you would like to share your comment as well, please feel free to DM me on Twitter.

But in the context of my comments in this particular blog, its @FranchiseOwl who gets the first word:

Finnish Dons fan who has lived in England for a while now. I’m a fairly optimistic person which is surprising considering my nationality. In regards to supporting the Dons I certainly resonate more with fans who are measured, calm and have a sense of perspective as I find it frustrating when some fans have a sense of entitlement with the expectation of winning every game when in reality a club of our age and budget has phenomenal stability.

It’s very easy to see some poor performances and throw the towel in. And by the sounds of it, criticism leveled following the second half at Posh was completely deserved. But Franchise Owl is right. We aren’t a super rich club who can buy our way to success. We’re an outfit which lives within it’s means but is fortunate to play in one of the outstanding stadia in England.

And having brought in a new manager, it will take time to develop a team who will get used to the new system. Equally it will take time for the manager to work out his best side, once the handicap of injuries is removed.

So tomorrow afternoon I’ll be cheering the lads on… having the occasional moan to my pals who put up with me at matches… and looking for more signs that we can become a real threat in this division.

It really is far too early to give up on Robbie and his new recruits. I’m really hoping for and expecting an improved performance and a win tomorrow.

COYD

MK Dons: Chuks Aneke set for return

So the summer transfer window slams shut for yet another year.

Unlike previous seasons, the final day produced some interesting signings and a fair amount of excitement.

The day started with a message that Robbie Neilson was expecting 3 players to arrive and 2 to leave. It had become apparent during the days previous that first choice targets had been missed and therefore there was a fair amount of trepidation moving into the last day.

As the day progressed there was a distinct lack of news, and I have to admit to some doubts over the information received earlier in the day. It was therefore a relief to get a further update around 5pm confirming 2 players at the stadium and one more on the way (Alex Gilbey).

We then had the rather farcical scenario of a Greenock Morton fan announcing that the Dons had signed Celtic youngster Aidan Nesbitt, haivng spotted the deal listed on the Scottish FA website. Toby Lock promptly broke the news on the local networks ahead of the club which made me smile.

Eventually the Dons media lads put their pizzas down to announce the signings of Golbourne, Nesbitt and Gilbey as well as the departure of Paul Downing to Blackburn Rovers. The 2nd departure didn’t materialise thank goodness.

So the signings in summary:

Loans: Golbourne (29 – Bristol City), Ebanks Landell (24 – Wolves), Ariyibi (22 – Notts Forest), Tshibola (22 – Aston Villa) and Seager (21 – Southampton)

Contracts: Sietsma (22 – SC Heerenveen), Cisse (26 – Tours), Pawlett (26 – Aberdeen), McGrandles (21 – Norwich), Gilbey (22 – Wigan), Sow (27 – Henan Jianye), Nesbitt (20 – Celtic)

Seven contracted players brought in with money spent on a couple of them. A good blend of players with some experience and some young talent. I still feel that this has been one of the best transfer windows for a while from the Dons. My frustration has been the dysfunctional performances on the pitch, but at last we saw light at the end of the tunnel yesterday.

Having made a 6 hour drive to watch the Dons play against Oxford, I was starting to feel short changed after the first half. But thankfully, Robbie appeared to read the riot act and the lads came out a team transformed. For the first time this season, the fans came to life in response to some really decent football.

I thought Nicholls had another strong performance. He commands his box well, with one exception showed good judgement in one on ones and distributes the ball well. Gilbey impressed me on debut as did Upson. But 2 players really sparked my interest – Nesbitt and Brittain.

Both youngsters, one coming up through the Dons academy and the other through the Celtic youth system. But neither look overwhelmed and both were exciting to watch. Brittain looked organised and strong in defence but also showed attacking instincts with a great goal. Nesbitt had pace, trickery and a great pass.

When we can start with the likes of Sow, Agard and Aneke I’m convinced we’ll be a side transformed. But for me, its time for the squad to get stuck in and prove themselves. This lot can definitely play top football, we saw glimpses yesterday. Now its time for consistency so we can start climbing the table.

Some interesting observations from a Dons fan who posts on Twitter as @stodge_p. He travelled to and from the game with some Oxford fans;

“The recruits were excellent. At last a left back who can get forward and back. In the 2nd half Aidan Nesbitt showed loads of pace and trickery and I thought Alex Gilbey was excellent too.

Tactically we were poor for the first 20 minutes. We then changed to a single holding mid to deal with their little number 10. There were too many hit and hope balls to Seager with nobody to hold it up or play one twos with.

In the 2nd half, Muirhead gave us an outlet and perhaps should have started. Not sure why no Ousse today but Upson and Gilbey did well. I thought we missed Sow and Agard.

Thought the referee was unable to deal with the physical nature of the game. Missed the elbow when Neilson kicked the water bottles in temper.

Obika had 2 good chances in the last 5 mins to win but fluffed his lines. My Oxford United friends were moaning because he’s ex Swindon.

All in all happy with the point and a much improved performance (after the first 20 minutes) against a very skillful and technical Oxford side. Get our best 11 out there and we will be there or thereabouts.

I found it interesting that my Oxford pals thought we were a physical dirty team. They also said that on 85 minutes they would have taken a draw but in the end were disappointed not to have won it.”

Before we leave the Oxford match…

Rob Hall evokes more emotions among Dons fans than most other former players and I can understand why. Karl Robinson was very passionate in his condemnation of the young forward when he chose Oxford over the Dons in 2016.

Most won’t agree but I have a different view.

Hall was a 21 year old on loan at the Dons when he ruptured his cruciate ligament during a training session in April 2016. He would have known that a near bankrupt Bolton Wanderers were about to cut him loose, leaving him with a career threatening injury and no club.

The initial operation was rightly paid for by the Dons insurance policy and aftercare for the remainder of the loan provided by the Dons medical staff. After Bolton announced they were releasing him, MK Dons continued to provide rehabilitation support to Hall. It is rumoured (but not published) that the Dons also provided financial support.

Karl Robinson claims that the Dons offered Hall a one year contract which he “verbally” agreed. Sources who have spoken to Hall tell me that although he accepts this, he became unhappy with the terms been offered – in particular the length of the contract and the wage offered. He wanted to stay in Milton Keynes but needed financial and job security.

Hall claims that the Dons refused to budge and eventually Oxford offered a 2 year contract and a higher wage which he accepted.

Some readers may recall issues relating to the contract of Brendan Galloway a couple of years prior to this. I therefore find it astonishing that Karl Robinson was prepared to believe that he had secured the services of a player from a conversation alone. He failed to obtain his signature on a contract and the player found an improved offer somewhere else – something he was entitled to do as a free agent.

I can understand the frustrations but I can equally see Hall’s perspective. We didn’t pay for his operation (covered by insurance) and he was entitled to medical support until the end of his loan on 12th May 2016. At worst, he verbally agreed a one year contract and received 2 months medical support and financial support in return – hardly a huge outlay.

Pete Winkelman gave Hall a standing ovation when he left the pitch yesterday and I was told afterwards that although he was annoyed by what happened he doesn’t blame him for taking an improved contract with Oxford.

Some other snippets of information I heard yesterday from friends of the blog:

Pete W is apparently buzzing for the away match against AFC Kingston. He intends going to the match and standing with the fans in the away section of the ground.

Ebanks-Landell was taken to the Saxon Clinic for a scan on his foot. He was seen on crutches wearing a protective boot when he left. The club were concerned that he had a broken a bone. I don’t know the outcome.

Another player out injured is Joe Walsh and he was seen in a knee brace yesterday. I’m told that he is out for at least 2 weeks.

The club are still working hard on the proposed training ground. They’ve encountered some opposition from MK Councillors so it has been very heavy going so far. I can’t help but wonder if the MKDSA shouldn’t get the fans to start lobbying Councillors in support of the Dons, something I understand the club would welcome.

I’m told that we paid a substantial fee for Alex Gilbey but it wasn’t a club record.

Finally, some good news with Chuks Aneke set to play 30 minutes for the under 23 side tomorrow. The Dons are playing against Southend in a behind closed doors fixture at Stadium MK with kick off at 2pm.

Hopefully the blog has been informative throughout the transfer window. Once again a huge thank you to the fans who have taken time to share information. Also thanks to all those who’ve “liked” the blog and showed their appreciation. Just hoping for a cracking season and many happy afternoons (and evenings) following the mighty Dons.

MK Dons: The £1.3m intermediaries

A very strange evening at the Dons last night.

Pre-match, Robbie Neilson had said; “For me, any game we approach to win it. I won’t make huge alterations. It also allows us to play and understand each other without the pressure of it being a league game.”

It was therefore a surprise to see 7 changes to the starting team with Nicholls, Ebanks-Landell, Wootton, Williams, Cisse, Tshibola and Sow all rested. Pretty much the spine of the side that had shown such an improvement on Saturday.

Robbie did try and explain his thought process after the match, saying; “We knew it would be a tough night for us once we saw the teams, and we decided to rest a lot of our players.”

However, these comments made little sense given that Swansea boss Paul Clements said immediately after their match against Manchester United; “I don’t want to make massive sweeping changes (against MK Dons). We are going to put a strong team out.”

I don’t have a problem with managers resting key players for cup matches, and I would have been there whoever started. But when fans are paying good money to come and watch a midweek cup match, I personally feel there needs to be a clear indication if a manager intends resting his key players.

As far as the match was concerned, I thought we made a reasonable start. We competed well and moved the ball decently at times. And then some good passing and movement led to the goal.

But for me that’s where the good stuff ended.

Second half was as bad as I’ve seen us play for a while. I totally accept that we were playing against a Premier League side and that we had “some” youngsters out there. But we also had a decent number of first team regulars who I expected a lot more from.

Picking out some positives, I thought Callum Brittain  made a good impression and it was good to see Ryan Seagers score his first competitive goal for the Dons.

Anyway, we can put that one to bed and concentrate on the league again, which after all is where our priority lies this season.

I noticed an article in the Express this week about Dele Alli considering a change of agent. That can often indicate an impending move, especially with several huge clubs (at home and abroad) expressing an interest in his services. Equally, it might have something to do with the financial difficulties the agent finds himself in.

Impact Sports Management Ltd was formed by Robert Segal in 2004. Segal had previously worked as a Senior Clerk for a Barristers Chambers, specialising in divorce and contract law. By chance he had taken on some work for an England international player and ended up securing him a deal and became a football agent.

Since 2007, a number of “names” have become shareholders in the company including David Bentley (5%), former England keeper Paul Robinson (3%) and Karl Robinson (1%). Meanwhile, in February 2015 Dele Alli agreed a transfer from the Dons to Spurs and was represented by… Rob Segal.

Just one year later and the company hit the buffers. HMRC claimed it was owed over £2m which Segal couldn’t afford to pay and the business was placed into administration. Permission has recently been granted to extend the administration period by a further year.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Dele situation plays out over the coming days.

I was given some very reliable information a couple of months ago that the midfielder DOES want to move abroad to play and that his preferred club is Real Madrid. Is this the moment the Dons receive their golden pay out or is Dele just protecting his interests?

And whilst we’re on the subject of agents (during a transfer window)…

As required under FIFA’s regulations on working with intermediaries (agents), introduced on 1st April 2015, The FA is required to annually publish details of the following:

  • The total payments made by clubs to registered intermediaries
  • The single transaction(s) in which each registered intermediary was involved

The list makes interesting reading at MK Dons:

  • 05/05/15 Thomas Flanagan –  Clive Berlin (CB Management Limited)
  • 08/05/15 Carl Baker – Tam Byrne (Wasserman Media Group)
  • 27/05/15 Lee Hodson – Robert Segal (Impact Sports Management)
  • 27/05/15 Joe Walsh – David Menasseh (Stellar)
  • 01/07/15 Daniel Green – Daniel Fletcher (MAC1Sports Ltd)
  • 02/07/15 Dean Bowditch – Barry Nevill (Player’s Inc Ltd)
  • 02/07/15 Simon Church – David Robson-Kanu (Protekt Sports Management)
  • 02/07/15 George Baldock – Dean Baker (Wasserman Media Group)
  • 02/07/15 Cody Cropper – James Skelland (James Grant Sports)
  • 02/07/15 Dale Jennings – Neil Sang (Sportstar Promotions)
  • 02/07/15 Daniel Powell – Tom Soden (Key Sports Management)
  • 02/07/15 Dean Lewington – Tommy Langley (Rockingham Promotions)
  • 02/07/15 Antony Kay – Neil Sang (Sportstar Promotions)
  • 28/07/15 Cristian Benavente – Bristol Jokin (Barcena IS Sports) and Andy Niedzwiecki (Icon Sports Management)
  • 28/07/15 Robert Hall – Andy Niedzwiecki (Icon Sports Management)
  • 30/07/15 Matthew Upson – Struan Marshall (Wasserman Media Group)
  • 03/08/15 Sergio Aguza – Santiago Jokin (Barcena IS Sports) and Andy Niedzwiecki (Icon Sports Management)
  • 11/08/15 Ben Reeves – Andy Niedzwiecki (Icon Sports Management)
  • 20/08/15 Diego Poyet – Andy Niedzwiecki (Icon Sports Management)
  • 22/09/15 Nicholas Maynard – Daniel Wilson (DNA Management)
  • 15/10/15 Darren Potter – Craig Honeyman (CH Soccer Services Ltd)
  • 06/11/15 Kyle McFadzean – Andy Evans (World In Motion)
  • 05/01/16 Cristian Benavente – Bristol Jokin (Barcena IS Sports)
  • 16/01/16 Sergio Aguza – Santiago Jokin (Barcena IS Sports)
  • 01/02/16 Alexander Revell – Alex Levack (Sidekick Management)
  • 08/02/16 Dale Jennings – Neil Sang (Sportstar Promotions)
  • 12/07/16 George Williams – Charles KaiKai (Xtratimes Sports Ltd)
  • 13/07/16 Edward Upson – David Manasseh (Stellar Football Limited)
  • 13/07/16 Paul Downing – Michael Drew (Volenti Limited)
  • 19/07/16 – Nicholas Maynard – Daniel Wilson (DNA Management)
  • 02/08/16 Chukwuemeka Aneke – Robert Segal (Impact SM Ltd)
  • 02/08/16 George Baldock – Dean Baker (Wasserman Media Group)
  • 04/08/16 Lee Nicholls – Kai Horne (Key Sports Management)
  • 05/08/16 Scott Wootton – Peter Morrison (James Grant Sports)
  • 11/08/16 Kieran Agard – Dean Baker (Wasserman Media Group)
  • 19/01/17 Robbie Muirhead – Grant Smith (Gravla Sports)
  • 31/01/17 Maecky Ngombo – Neil Mason (Correct Recruitment)

No less than 37 transactions involving agents over the last three years. And each transaction comes with an agent fee which brings me onto some more figures. The amount spent on those fees by MK Dons Football Club:

  • 1st October 2014 to 1st September 2015 – £672,371.00
  • 1st October 2015 to 1st February 2016 – £167,629.00
  • 2nd February 2016 to 31st January 2017 – £496,605.00

Over the last 3 years the club has paid out £1,336,605.00 (£1.33 million) to agents for player transfers, management appointments or re-negotiating contracts. Repeat that across the 92 clubs in English league football and you realise what a lucrative business it is.

FIFA have issued guidelines which say that an intermediary (agent) should be paid around 3% of the player’s basic gross income with regards to representing a player, and 3% of the transfer fee in the event of a club.

As a football fan I find it absolutely grotesque that “agents” wield so much power. And to find that they have stripped some £1.3m from the Dons over the last three years alone is pretty sickening.

We quite often ask why the Dons don’t spend more on transfer fees, but when you see figures like this it becomes fairly obvious. Since the sale of Dele Alli, the club hasn’t earned enough money from player sales to even cover the cost of agent’s fees. How shocking is that!

So the next time we demand that £400,000 from a player sale is put towards a transfer fee, just remember that we also have to fund a wage for that player and a fee to his agent. That is why we rely so heavily on free transfers and loan signings.

MK Dons: Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles

There’s a Swedish proverb which says Anfall är bästa försvar.

Osman Sow would doubtless be able to translate it into English as “attack is the best defence”.

How often have we complained about the lack of a strong forward, or commented on opposition sides making the most of limited opportunities to score.

I found it refreshing to see the latest addition to the Dons squad hovering on the shoulder of the last man as our defence cleared their lines. His presence alone creating doubt in the minds of the Gills players.

And then the moment of class.

Tish controlled the ball, allowing the Swede to move into position and delivered an exquisite cross into his path. With a calmness that only comes with experience, Osman Sow put the ball in the back of the net with a diving header – a rarity in recent years at Stadium MK.

The new recruit only lasted 60 minutes, hardly surprising given the fact that his last competitive game was back in May. But it was long enough to see the reason Robbie Neilson worked so hard to sign him.

When Sow was announced, the interesting reaction was that of the Hearts faithful, with the most revealing tweet coming from Gorgie Chat; “You’ve signed a wonderful man with a beautiful left foot. What we would do to have Osman Sow…”

And after the big man scored the winning goal, another tweet from Edinburgh; “Didn’t take Osman Sow long did it? I told you MK Dons wouldn’t regret signing the big man. Great piece of business.”

For someone who hadn’t played a competitive match for nearly 3 months, having flown into the UK last weekend and spent just 5 days at the Dons, I’m amazed that he played so well. It wasn’t just the goal, it was the threat that some strikers seem to create with their positional play and movement.

From an attacking perspective I thought we looked much better this week.

Having a forward with presence and experience, appeared to inject confidence into those further back. For a time in the second half, the Dons attacked at will and showed how exciting they will be in full flow.

Cisse continued to impress.

He’s one of those players who appears to have time on the ball when others around seem rushed and harassed. When others are losing their heads, his is the voice of reason. His passes are simple but always to feet, and his tackles strong and effective.

But he’s also the motivator.

Gesturing to the crowd to raise the noise levels, applauding players appreciatively and communicating constantly with the bench and those around him. I can’t recall a character like him since the days of Jude Stirling, although a better player than Jude it has to be said.

The character of Robbie Neilson was to the fore again before a ball was kicked. It takes a brave manager to consign a club captain and fans favourite to the bench in favour of a centre-back playing out of position. But I thought it was the right decision with Walsh having an excellent match at left back.

With the exception of the roller-coaster last 10 minutes, the defence looked strong. Only 2 goals have been conceded in the first 4 matches of the season, demonstrating the emphasis placed at the back by Neilson. Compare that to the equivalent matches last season when the Dons had already leaked 6 goals.

As Alex Ferguson once said; “Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles”.

A couple more points to raise.

It’s been a very long time since we started with a bench that strong. Any side that can start with the likes of Agard, Pawlett, Lewington and Upson on the sidelines is going to be competitive in League One.

And secondly (and probably linked to the strong bench), is the availability of players. Only one player missing from the matchday squad of note and that was Chuks Aneke. A result of the changes to the training regime? It’s difficult to say, but so far there’s been a big improvement in the rate of absence through injury.

A mention for Peter Pawlett. I’ve seen him play from the bench on two occasions and each time he’s impressed me. There was a part of me that wondered if he could be that midfield playmaker that Robbie seeks. He’s got technique, pace and an eye for a pass that’s for sure. A quality signing.

In my last blog I said; “Lets have some patience, back the lads and watch as performances and results improve”.

Equally, whilst happy with the three points and the positive improvements on show, a word of caution this time. The opposition wasn’t great and there were times in the match when we weren’t great. Robbie Neilson said after the match; “We played well in periods, but we’re on the board and we’re ready to go now”.

I don’t think we’re there yet, but confidence does build confidence and winning is a habit. So let’s hope we can use this as a springboard moving forward.

No news on the transfer front. We all know that Robbie is still looking to recruit a number 10 and a left back. Rumours flying around about Stephen Gleeson and Jamie Walker but I can’t see either of them coming to the Dons at the moment. Certainly not hearing anything about either. Could be a fun end to the transfer window which closes at 11pm on 31st August.

One moan from me this week. For whatever reason, the Cowshed bar has again been restricted to half the size it could be. It was hot, cramped and not the best environment to enjoy a pre-match pint. And just 4 people pulling pints with none pre-prepared? Ten minutes of queuing to get served is bad form.

But there you have it. Three points in the bag and an exciting afternoon of live football. What more could you want? The crazy life of an MK Dons supporter continues and we all look forward to testing ourselves against Swansea City on Tuesday evening.

Postscript: Since writing this blog, I’ve been told that Chuks Aneke hopes to be competing for a place in the match-day squad in 2-3 weeks time, which is slightly ahead of schedule

MK Dons: Reality v Romance

Sunday 30th April 2017 (Walsall 1-4 MK Dons)

Nicholls, Lewington, Williams, Tilney, Baldock, O’Keefe, Upson, Potter, Reeves, Muirhead and Barnes.

Saturday 12th August 2017 (Blackpool 1-0 MK Dons)

Nicholls, Lewington, Wootton, Ebanks-Landell, Williams, Tshibola, Upson, Cisse, Ariyibi, Agard and Muirhead.

__________________

Someone once said; “Life isn’t always romantic. Sometimes it’s realistic”

Karl Robinson used to talk about a project at MK Dons, but what has taken place over the last 9 month is a complete re-set. New manager, new assistant and new coach supported by a new fitness coach and a new recruitment analyst. And they have created a new squad of players with massive changes and significant recruitment.

Just compare the teams I’ve listed above and you see 6 changes to the starting 11 that took the field against Walsall. Look at the bench and you’ll see more.

In recent years we’ve become used to having high expectations with the club competing at the business end of League One. And those expectations reached a crescendo as Dele Alli, Will Grigg and Benik Afobe carried us to the exalted heights of the Championship.

Two subsequent seasons of decline sent a message – “time for change”

As we saw new players arrive, coming as they have with potential, the level of expectation has again risen. As football fans we always start a new season with hope and expectation but “life isn’t always romantic, sometimes it’s realistic”.

Robbie Neilson is charged with bringing together players from different clubs, different countries and different cultures. He has had weeks to knit them together into a unit capable of holding their own as a team. A team still missing key members, yet to be recruited in this transfer window.

He has to coach them to play to his philosophy, in some cases changing the mindsets of players influenced by managers who’ve had different ideas and principles to him. That will take time.

Even those players who remain from the old guard face challenges. Dean Lewington is not getting any younger and is clearly finding time to adapt to the changes. George Williams has had to move to the right wing after being used as a utility player last season.

I was at the matches against Brentford and Leicester pre-season and I thought the signs were promising. And then against Wigan, we competed for large periods against a team hotly tipped for promotion. In fact you only need to look at the way they dismantled a decent Bury side 4-1 today to put our 1-0 defeat into context.

So what can we glean from the defeat at Blackpool?

From the outset let me say that I wasn’t there so I can’t form my own opinions and impressions. I did however have close contact with a couple of fans I massively respect as students of the game. Camden Paul said to me; “There doesn’t seem to be two players on the pitch who are on each other’s wavelength. That needs addressing on the training ground.”

He’s absolutely right.

This takes us back to the initial point about reality versus romance. The reality of the situation is that coaching a style of play, creating team spirit and playing for each other will take time. It will take hours of work on the training ground and match time, playing together and learning from each other.

Several fans have bemoaned the lack of a striker.

For me, the failure of the last two seasons has been the inability to put the ball in the net. Defensively the stats are reasonably favourable, but the lack of options up front has harmed us. But I do honestly believe Robbie Neilson has identified this. How could he not when we’ve scored one goal in our first three matches.

The stats make interesting reading:

  • Dons v Wigan – 6 shots with just 1 on target
  • Dons v Forest Green Rovers – 21 shots with just 3 on target
  • Dons v Blackpool – 13 shots with just 2 on target

Do the math and you end up with just 6 shots on target out of 40 attempts. Just 15% of all shots made so far this season on target. It doesn’t take a genius mind to work out that the less shots on target the less chance of scoring a goal.

By way of contrast, Blackpool had less shots (11) but 6 were on target (54%) and of course they scored the winning goal. Wigan also managed 6 shots on target and again scored the winning goal.

Fact of the matter is that we don’t have a quality proven striker in the squad.

Thomas-Asante and Nombe are attempting to make the transition from academy football, whilst Ryan Seager is himself making his way into the professional game. Robbie Muirhead and Kieran Agard are not out and out strikers either with both men preferring to operate in wider positions.

And that is why it is essential to bring in a front man… a target man.

Robbie Neilson has made it clear that he has a vision for that role. He has reserved the number 9 for someone who can do a job. He’s spoken about a player with strength and presence who can dominate a defence and create openings for the pace that has been brought in.

Equally, the return of Chuks Aneke will go a long way to completing the jigsaw that is the Dons first choice team.

Two other people with views on Saturday’s match were Bobby and Pete Winkelman. I’m grateful to @hanwilkss for passing on comments made as the fans arrived in Milton Keynes on the way home from Blackpool.

Bobby Winkelman said how gutted he was and promised that things WILL change. He did however compliment Lee Nicholls on how he’d saved the Dons in the last three games.

Pete Winkelman was even more direct, saying; “Well that was shit. I apologise to all of you and I promise we are working on it”. The Dons chairman then thanked the fans for travelling.  Bobby added that he thought it was a great turn out and also thanked the supporters.

I know some fans have been upset by the reaction of others, not just to the defeat but to the performance. However it’s difficult to challenge that reaction when the Chairman of the club shares that view as well. But the good news is that the management see the problems and are working to fix them. I’d be more concerned if they’d tried to defend the performance.

This weekend I received a fabulous DM on Twitter from a Dons fan who lives abroad. He reminded me of the need to remain positive and not to get drawn into a spiral of doom and gloom. I’m so glad he said that and he’s absolutely right.

Lets just stop, take a breath and reflect on what’s happening here. Players are still being recruited, fitness levels are being improved and the squad is being coached to play in a different way.

Two defeats by a single goal, one to a side with a more established squad and a bigger source of revenue than us and the other to a side playing its first match at home whilst riding the crest of a wave after promotion is not a disaster.

We all know that the squad needs to gel, and we can clearly see that the club need to bring in a striker, left back and midfielder. Yet Neilson has already said he is recruiting in those areas. Lets have some patience, back the lads and watch as performances and results improve.

As I posted on Twitter, I was told Friday afternoon that we had signed our first choice striker. And I was also told that it would be announced early this week.

Whoever it is will need time to build their fitness up and adapt to new surroundings and team mates. This player will be the one Neilson wants and whatever our views on that player, I for one will be backing him and supporting him on the pitch. Negativity at this stage is only going to cause issues.

Fingers crossed my source was right…

One other piece of information passed to me last week was slightly more concerning. Rumours that a young player (not Tilney) has asked to leave the club and is currently in discussions with another club with a view to a move. I don’t have a name at the moment but it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on that.

So not the result we hoped for and a disappointing start to the season, but plenty to look forward to this week with (hopefully) a new signing or two announced and then a home match against Gillingham who have themselves only picked up a draw and two defeats from their opening three matches of the season.

MK Dons: On the Dot

The heartbeat of any football club comes from the fans who support it. Look at any established EFL or PL side in England and you will find a heady mix of on-line fan forums, websites and blogs.

In 2004, the Dons re-formed as Milton Keynes and there followed a number of on-line “experiences” to support the uniquely new fan-base that sprung up around “the Franchise.” It has to be said that the majority of these sites were forums, which played a huge role in knitting together strangers who were adopting the Dons as their new club.

Meanwhile, local media coverage was tentative at first with editors wanting to support a local club whilst obviously nervous about the storm in the national media that followed the move from Selhurst Park. Incidentally, it does annoy me when the national press talk about the move from Wimbledon to MK (there was NO move from Wimbledon – the club had long left).

It was 2013 when Toby Lock took over as Sports Editor of the MK Citizen and transformed coverage of the Dons. For the first time, the local media had someone prepared to invest time and effort in reporting on the club.

The first blog of any significance was published by a Dons fan known as Gunnerdon. GD’s MK Dons blog was interesting and appealed to fans for three reasons. It wasn’t restricted by the editorial limitations of mainstream media, it was written by a true fan of the club and Gunnerdon put himself out to attend training sessions and meetings in order to glean snippets of information that were interesting and different.

Around the time Toby took the Sports helm at the great ship Citizen, Gunnerdon mentioned to me that he was scaling back his blog for various reasons and I decided to start the On the Dot blog.

Having followed the club from the early days, and been involved in various fan based initiatives, I’d made a number of contacts who I felt could help maintain a blog that would build on the great work started by GD.

As I’ve said before, I’m not a professional writer like Toby and I fully accept that my articles weren’t always the best constructed or most pleasing to the eye. What I tried to do was provide blogs that were both informative and factual and reflected the mood of the fans I stood with at matches.

I’m far from the only one these days with some great articles coming from Brando at the Moocamp and others more recently from the younger generation which are equally interesting.

So where does my information come from?

Well firstly I came to realise that there’s a vast amount of information available on line. Planning applications are available for public scrutiny and accounts for the club and its parent company Inter MK Ltd are published on Companies House website. Also available are details of player agents, transfer markets and of course social media.

I tried to ensure that any information I found was researched and double checked before I included it in the blog. I deliberately avoided trawling forums for information, as I found them to be notoriously unreliable.

When I first published the blog in it’s original format (2013 onwards), I only ever published one link to each article on Twitter and never tried to push it anyone’s faces elsewhere on social media. A principle I’ve maintained to this day. I also tried hard to avoid criticising other fans views, recognising that everyone is entitled to their opinion and mine is just one.

I think the first blog got about 10 reads (and 3 of those were me proof reading it) but as a fan I enjoyed doing it and those who read it seemed to appreciate it.

Whilst I already knew several fans who were well placed to pass on interesting snippets of information, I started to get messages from fans who enjoyed the blog and some were able to add value with information of their own.

So for example, in my last blog I received some background to the Ben Tilney situation. Shortly after publishing it, I received a message from someone with links to Brackley Town who was able to add value with accurate information about an impending loan deal – completely unreported elsewhere.

Whilst I write the blogs and publish them on-line, the content comes from fans of the club. Without their help and support I’d have very little to write about. It really is a team effort and about sharing information and news with each other.

Writing a blog brings dilemmas.

I once broke the news that Ryan Kent was having talks with the Dons. When I received the information I mistakenly believed it was a done deal hence the post. Talks broke down and Karl Robinson suggested it was because the information got out. Whilst I know it wasn’t because of this, it highlights the fine line between an informative blog and something that causes difficulties.

Since then I only usually publish information I receive once I see it mentioned elsewhere. But then it’s suggested that the information is guesswork and your integrity is questioned, so it is difficult to maintain a balance.

As an example I received the following information on 26th  June 2017:

IMG_1936 (2)

I decided not to publish this information as the deal wasn’t confirmed. But as we now know the Dons announced the signing of Cisse on 29th June 2017. That being said, read my blog dated the 28th June 2017 – a few hints but no guesswork.

By contrast I was happy to name Sietsma as I’d been told that the deal was done and the club had shown him in a video.

Before I finish this voyage through the life of a blog writer, it’s worth mentioning that I don’t hear news about everything that happens at the club. I hear snippets from time to time. And additionally, deals quite often fall through during a transfer window meaning that information that’s current one week becomes old news the next.

As an example I heard that the club were hopeful of signing Ike Ugbo from Chelsea and Brandon Barker from Manchester City earlier in the transfer window.

And just to complete the picture…

9…

In January I mentioned that we were looking at the Asian markets for a player. I was later told that we were in talks with a striker from China. An article published in the Daily Record at the time suggested that Neilson was trying to sign Osman Sow.

Fast forward to June 2017 and I received information that John Akinde was at Stadium MK for talks and that if we signed him we could double our club record transfer fee (which incidentally I’m told is £250,000 for Agard).

Late in July I was told that the Akinde talks had fallen through as we couldn’t agree a fee with Barnet. Robbie Neilson then went on 3CR and confirmed that we weren’t looking at Akinde “at the moment”.

Into August and fresh information from two separate contacts that we were very close to completing a deal with Osman Sow. A third contact confirmed that Akinde was no longer on the radar but suggested that we were looking at another loan striker from the Premier League. He had no information about Sow.

Meanwhile news that the Chinese transfer window had closed with the contract of Osman Sow due to expire in February 2018, but confirmation by Robbie Neilson that he hoped a deal could be done with a number 9 by the end of this week.

And John Akinde with a mystery injury keeping him out of the team at Barnet?

Frankly I think there’s been enough rumours that me relaying this isn’t going to affect anything. Make of it what you will…

Anyway, enough from me for one day. Apologies for boring you with the life and times of OTD, but just felt it was the right time to explain the background to the blog

COYD

MK Dons: “Rome ne s’est pas faite en un jour”

Ouss Cisse will doubtless be familiar with the French saying “Rome ne s’est pas faite en un jour”.

Quite a reaction to the Dons opening day defeat to Wigan Athletic.

That’s Wigan Athletic who were in the Premier League 5 seasons ago. The same team relegated from the Championship last season who are 2nd favourites for automatic promotion this time round. The Wigan Athletic who were able to bring a million pound front man off the bench – Mr Grigg not quite catching fire today.

By way of contrast the Dons started with an entire squad that was put together for less than half a million pounds. 8 new players arriving in the last 2 months and 5 new players starting the match.

Despite this, Wigan only won by a single goal and for long periods were matched by the Dons, if not outplayed.

Now, I’m not presenting an entirely rosy recollection of events.

The team would struggle to refer to itself as such right now, with many passages of play disjointed. It was clear that new partnerships are not yet natural and at times we looked like a bunch of strangers.

Some of the new signings were too keen to impress, choosing to rely on trickery and pace at the expense of passes which could have opened up play.

The absence of a quality, proven centre forward once again came back to haunt us. Balls were put into the box, but we missed a wise head and someone to come flying in with commitment and desire.

And whilst I hate pointing the finger at a club legend, Lewie had a shocker, leaving his team-mates exposed time and again. He really doesn’t have the pace to cope with a fast, physical counter attacking team like Wigan. He’s wise enough and big enough to recover in future games but today’s match leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

But unlike last season I see promise and potential and all of the points I’ve made above can be resolved.

Nicholls was outstanding. Frankly his performance today shows just how stagnated David Martin had become. The number 1 in his own right grew in confidence and pretty much kept the Dons in the match at times.

I remain impressed by Cisse and think he’ll become a massive player for us this season, while Pawlett showed good pace and a clever brain when he came on. Ebanks-Landell covered acres of ground in defence and looks a cut above other players we’ve had in the centre of defence.

Pre-season is all well and good but you don’t experience the intensity and pace of a game until the league season starts. Lessons will be learned and fitness and execution of plans improved… plus there will be more signings.

Before I talk about new signings…

What on earth has happened to Ben Tilney?

There were sightings of the young defender in the hotel reception prior to this week’s shirt presentation evening, but a non-appearance at the actual event. The party line, as circulated by Andy Cullen was that Tilney was ill. With all due respect to the club director, I don’t think anyone believes him.

What I can tell you is that players have been expressly told not to discuss the matter with anyone. I’ve been told that there’s been a falling out between Tilney and the Dons management, and that he’s unlikely to play for the club again this season. I’m reliably informed that he’s trying to arrange a loan spell at another club.

Footnote to Tilney information:

A reliable contact informs me that Ben Tilney watched Brackley Town defeat FCUM this afternoon. He watched the match from the dugout and remained with the team after the final whistle. The word coming from Brackley is that Tilney is set to be signed on a season long loan.

The subject fans are most interested in right now is signings…

Whilst in my opinion, the Dons have recruited well, the squad still appears three light. The news reaching me this evening is that the club are closing in on three signings, all of which they hope to complete this week.

Left back, midfielder and the much anticipated striker.

I don’t have a name for the left back but do know that the club have held talks with a top 6 Premier League club concerning the availability of an attacking midfielder. IF this is the player we’re close to signing I would rate him at the same level as Harvey Barnes. Not an instantly recognisable name but a real talent in the making. But he will be a loan.

Talking of which, reliable information today that Barnes is about to sign for Ipswich on loan from Leicester City. Sadness for Dons fans but to be expected and I’m sure he’ll do well.

Robbie Neilson again telling us that we are close to signing the fabled number 9. More interesting are comments from a senior figure within the club earlier today. He indicated that the deal is on the verge of being completed, involves a club record amount of cash and that the player will be contracted (not loaned).

I have been given a name which I’m not going to publish at the moment, but is a name I’ve referenced in the past. In my opinion this player would be very impactive in League One. He has been described as having technique, pace, and goal scoring instinct.

So it’s a disappointing day but not all is gloom and doom. In our promotion winning season we lost 3 and drew 1 of our opening 9 games. Give Robbie a little time and I remain convinced that we’ll do very well.

And that French saying; “Rome ne s’est pas faite en un jour”

“Rome wasn’t built in a day”

Patience will bring results

MK Dons: Exciting times ahead

Apologies if you feel these blogs are too frequent at the moment, but there’s so much happening right now… and a sense of anticipation long missed at MK Dons.

Let’s start with a nod to the past.

The Ben Reeves saga continues with every indication that the former Dons midfielder has shot himself in the foot.

Following his rather strange appearance on the Dons bench against Aylesbury FC, Reeves appears to have clocked up many miles in an effort to secure a deal that he (or his agent) considers appropriate to his talent. He has been linked with Championship clubs (a sighting at Bolton mentioned on social media) as well as European clubs.

Then on Friday evening, another visit to Stadium MK before being sighted on Charlton on Saturday afternoon. With the Charlton fans working themselves into a frenzy, Karl Robinson (unsurprisingly) had plenty to say about the situation.

“He just phoned me today and asked if he could come down and watch, but I’ve not really spoken to him that much to be honest, he’s just come to watch the game.

He’s a free agent. Whether there’s room in the budget, I don’t know. Whether he wants to come, I don’t know – I’ve not spoken to him.

We all knew if he came to the game it was going to raise eyebrows. We’ve not spoken about a contract or anything, so there’s still a lot to be done if we can do it, and we don’t know if we can do it yet.”

I can’t help but wonder if Reeves has been influenced by a pushy agent. Given the fact that he’s only started 46% of matches at Milton Keynes and lives in the area with his wife who works in the local hospital, the package offered by the club was top drawer. I suspect he ran out of time with Pete Winkelman and Robbie Neilson and has now reverted to his final choice – Charlton.

Being completely honest, I think we’ll be better off without him. Not because of his undoubted talent, but his injury record and apparent lack of commitment to the club.

Another former Dons player at The Valley was David Martin. I note the absence of Championship clubs rushing to recruit his services and suspect that despite being a lovely guy, David isn’t as highly thought of as he thought he was.

Back in MK, Leicester City were the visitors and a chance to see if the optimism of Tuesday was mis-placed or not.

It might not have been a full strength Foxes side, but don’t under-estimate the quality that was on show.

Daniel Amartey signed from Copenhagen for £6m and has made 17 full international appearances for Ghana. Vicente Iborra arrived from Seville for £15m earlier this summer whilst Demarai Gray cost the Blues £3.7m, having been signed from Birmingham City last season. Andy King is a Welsh full international who featured in their run to the semi-final of the Euros and has 38 caps with Wales.

Matty James has made 87 appearances for Leicester with caps at all England under levels. Tom Lawrence has won 6 caps with Wales and has experience at Premier League and Championship level. Finally, Leonardo Ulloa cost Leicester £8m and has since scored 18 goals in 82 appearances.

Without going into any other names on the team sheet, Leicester were able to field a squad that cost them over £50m including 5 full international players. Even though this was a pre-season friendly, that amount of talent and experience should have been a step too far for a Dons side put together over recent weeks.

Should have been…

Whilst the first half was pretty even, the Dons grew in confidence, knitted together as a team and finished the match by far the stronger team. At times, the movement and pace of the Dons was such that the experienced Leicester side was run ragged. Personally I thought we were unlucky not to win.

Lee Nicholls looked assured and took less risks than against Brentford. He was strong in the air, controlled his box well and mixed up his distribution wisely. One quick pin point clearance very nearly caught the Foxes off guard and created a goal scoring chance. He gave me far more confidence than Martin (7/10)

A big step up for George Williams who was outstanding. Playing against fast and experienced forwards he was decisive and strong in the tackle and linked up well in attack. Arguably one of his best performances in a Dons shirt and will make that full back position his own this season (7/10)

Joe Walsh had a big point to prove following a sub-standard introduction against Brentford compared to an outstanding contribution from Ebanks-Landell. The Welshman didn’t disappoint, impressing me with a strong performance. Had a good understanding with Wootton and made some crucial last ditch tackles (7/10)

What can I say about Scott Wootton. It feels like we’ve recruited a quality new player and it’s worth reminding ourselves that Leeds United paid £1.5m for him not so very long ago. Another classy performance and impressive levels of fitness given his return from injury (8/10)

Dean Lewington was much improved from Tuesday evening. His fitness is improving and he was more on the pace of the game than previously. That being said, he is far from his best at the moment and was the weak link at the back. Needs to put in some hard work before the match against Wigan (5/10)

I felt that Gboly “Greg” Ariyibi (number 7) struggled to find his feet against Brentford. No such criticisms on Friday. This guy was electric and a constant threat on the wing. I have no doubt that he will terrorise defences in League One. His pace is unbelievable, making far more experienced defenders look foolish at times (8/10)

Ousse Cisse is an amazing find and I have to applaud everyone at the club for signing such a talented player. Even Leicester fans were complimentary about him after the match. In the first half he did the simple things very well. Short passes keeping play moving, longer more penetrating passes opening play up and crunching tackles. Later in the game he bossed things with impressive trickery and vision (9/10)

There were decent moments from Ed Upson, especially later in the match and he doubtless played his part in a good result. Once again I felt he came off second best too many times but accept that he was playing against a quality side. I do wonder if he may struggle to keep his place when Peter Pawlett and Chuks Aneke are fit (6/10)

Bearing in mind that Aaron Tshibola hasn’t been part of the Dons pre-season training regime I thought he fitted in well. In the second half he started showing flashes of the talent which led Villa to pay £5m for his services. Having spent most of his career to date in the Championship or League One I have a feeling that he will have a massive impact (7/10)

It shows how far this squad has come when you realise Kieran Agard isn’t the most spoken about player despite an excellent performance. Thrives on the right wing and seems far more natural than the position Robinson played him last season. Had a couple of chances to score and was a constant threat. Him and Ariyibi are going to be a handful on the flanks this season (7/10)

Ryan Seager didn’t impress as much as Tuesday night but this may simply be down to fitness. Looked a bit leggy before he was taken off but I’m not surprised given his recent arrival. Still did enough to show me that he will make an impact this season (6/10)

A special mention to Brendon Thomas-Assante. I thought he was dynamite when he came on and looks ready to make the step up to me. Very powerful forward who caused problems for the Leicester defence.

This time last year I blogged that our squad was sub-standard and not strong enough for promotion. I even expressed concerns that we could flirt with relegation unless we strengthened key areas – something we did in the January transfer window.

By contrast I’m extremely happy with this squad

Just reflect on a strong and exciting performance against Leicester and then consider the fact that the side was missing Ebanks-Landell, Peter Pawlett, Chuks Aneke and Robbie Muirhead, as well as the long awaited number 9.

I honestly believe that we will be in the top 6 at the end of the season, and could even challenge for automatic promotion. The last time I felt like this was the promotion winning season three years ago.

Now there’s been a lot of chatter about the reliance on loan signings.

I’ll put it out there and say I have no issue with this whatsoever. Before I expand its worth reminding ourselves that an EFL side can bring in a maximum of 8 loan signings but can only name 5 in any one match day squad. The only time a loan player can be recalled is during the transfer windows.

The playing field in English football is no longer level.

The gap between the haves and the have nots is expanding season by season. The Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) means Premier League clubs can take the cream of lower league young players. And in any case, the need to bring in “survival cash” means talented players in lower league clubs are quite often snatched away for under-valued fees. Dele Alli being a fine example of this.

One of the few ways that clubs can redress this imbalance is to bring in loan signings.

Robbie Neilson has conducted some stunning business in the loan transfer market. Four players with a combined market value of around £10million recruited for a fraction of their market value. Players who have experience at Championship or Prem 2 level who have the ability to excel in League One.

Bolton Wanderers were promoted last season and had 5 loan signings. Sheffield United were another side promoted from League One and they also had 5 loan signings.

Now if other clubs are doing this, why should we be critical of the Dons for doing the same. We need to utilise every opportunity available to us, in order to return to the Championship. And who knows… by getting there, we may be in a position to encourage some of the loan signings to transfer to us (for a fee).

My final topic for this final blog of the closed season concerns transfers.

I’ve been delighted to see how much more professional the club have been around signings this summer. Yes, it can be frustrating not to get ITK tips about players we’re signing but as a fan of the club I have to acknowledge that it’s how it should be.

The information I have received in the last few days is that there are two more signings close to completion. I also received confirmation that the money received from the sale of George Baldock HAS been added to the budget given to Robbie Neilson.

The first is a full back, capable of playing both sides of the pitch, and the second is our new number 9.

Firstly, let me make it clear that I don’t have any names.

Earlier in the season I was told that we’d approached Barnet about the availability of John Akinde, but I’m now assured that Robbie Neilson meant what he said on the radio recently. He is now off our radar due to the unreasonably high demands of Barnet.

I was also told that there had been contact with China concerning the availability of Osman Sow. A second source told me that he had flown into the country for talks but I’ve been unable to corroborate that information.

There have of course been rumours about players that I’ve not had information about personally. Lee Erwin has of course signed for Kilmarnock so rumours linking us with him were wide of the mark.

Two other rumours linked former players to us in the form of Patrick Bamford and Benik Afobe. There have been media articles indicating that both players could be released on loan or sold this summer, but it would be an almighty coup to sign either of them. In fact, such a big drop that I can’t see it happening.

I was told late on Friday night that the number 9 being targeted is a target man who is able to hold play up, score goals or play round the corners for wingers. My source formed an opinion that this striker “may” be a loan signing from the Premier League.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this is a name nobody has thought off.

An exciting week ahead and then of course the first match of the season. I can’t wait for the ride to start… home and away… singing our hearts out… and supporting… the mighty MK Dons.